Like his later opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Mozart’s unfinished Zaide revolves around Europeans enslaved in the Middle East. He had finished two of the three acts when he received a more lucrative commission for Idomeneo, and stopped working on Zaide, leaving the second act with a cliffhanger ending.

The central characters are Gomatz, a slave to the Sultan Soliman, and Zaide, a slave in his harem. They fall in love, but their relationship is discovered by Allazim, Soliman’s head guard. In exchange for jewels, he agrees to spare them, and reveals that he too is a European forced into slavery. The three of them escape from the Sultan’s palace together.

In the second act, Soliman discovers their escape and is heartbroken. He too is in love with Zaide and deeply hurt that she would choose a mere slave over him. To catch them, he employs the help of his guard Osmin, who covets Allazim’s job. Once the three are captured, they plead for their lives. However, Mozart stopped composing before we find out if Soliman decides to spare them or kill them.

In this production, we have finished the plot with Weber’s Abu Hassan. Zaide agrees to give herself unrestrictedly to the Sultan if he sets Gomatz and Allazim free. Zaide becomes Soliman’s favorite wife, while Gomatz and Allazim begin their new lives as free men in a foreign land. Osmin assumes Allazim’s privileged position, takes the name Omar, and is soon the official moneychanger to the Sultan. Gomatz takes a new name, Abu Hassan, and marries Fatime, but they fall deeply into debt, leading directly to Weber’s work.

Musically, one can hear motifs from Mozart’s later operas in Zaide. For instance, the opening, in which the slaves lament their labor, bears a striking similarity to the beginning of Don Giovanni, when Leporello laments the difficulty of his employment. Zaide is also one of two works by Mozart that contain melodrama, spoken words set against music.

Roles (in order of appearance)

Gomatz (tenor) Dashiell Waterbury

Allazim (baritone) Conor McDonald

Osmin (baritone) Christopher Brandon Morales

A slave girl (soprano) Meghan Tarkington

Zaide (soprano) Lauren Pollock-Cohen

Sultan Soliman (tenor) Daniel Ross

Abu Hassan

Abu Hassan and his wife Fatime owe money to many lenders, including Omar, the moneychanger to Soliman, who has been elevated from Sultan to Caliph as his reign expands. Omar is in love with Fatime and frequently sends her letters confessing his love.

To get money, Abu Hassan and Fatime devise a life insurance scam. First, Fatime goes to Zaide, wife of the Sultan, and announce the death of Abu Hassan. In accordance with “Muslim custom,” Zaide gives Fatime money to cover his burial expenses. Abu Hassan then announces the death of Fatime to the Sultan, who in turn gives him money.

While Abu Hassan is out of the house, Omar arrives to woo Fatime. But when Abu Hassan returns, Omar quickly hides in a box. With Omar listening, Abu Hassan accuses Fatime of having an affair and swears vengeance on the man hiding in the box. Just then, the Caliph and Zaide arrive, confused over who is actually dead, and hilarity ensues.

With the exception of Der Freischütz, Carl Maria von Weber’s operas are not well known today. Nonetheless, his works had a profound influence on Richard Wagner and Gustav Mahler. Weber was related to Mozart through marriage (Carl Maria’s cousin Constanze married Mozart), and his cousins were all singers who performed Mozart frequently; Josepha Weber premiered the role of the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte. Thus Carl Maria was very familiar with Mozart’s works from an early age, and his operas can be seen as a midpoint between Mozart’s Classicism and the German Romanticism of Wagner.

Roles (in order of appearance)

Abu Hassan (tenor) Dashiell Waterbury

Fatime (soprano) Meghan Tarkington

Omar (baritone) Christopher Brandon Morales

A moneylender (baritone) Conor McDonald

The Caliph Soliman (tenor) Daniel Ross

His favorite wife, Zaide (soprano) Lauren Pollock-Cohen

Mozart: Zaide

Weber: Abu Hassan

Dates: January 26th and 27th 2013

Location: Fath Auditorium at the Cincinnati Art Museum

Presented in conjunction with the Near-Eastern Collection at the Cincinnati Art Museum, this production paired two Turkish-themed operas: Mozart’s unfinished Zaide and Weber’s Abu Hassan. Ten percent of the ticket proceeds from this production were donated to QCCO’s partner organization, MYCincinnati.

Conductor: Isaac Selya

Stage Direction: Dashiell Waterbury

Set Design: Forsum Events


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